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Species Profile: Thornback Skate (Platyrhinoidis Triseriata)

Author: Terra Firma Tackle

Species Info Thornback Skates:

Thornback Skate

                Thornback Skates (Platyrhinoidis triseriata) are member of the guitarfish family, although closer related to true rays then the other member of that family found in California. These fish can be found from Northern California to Baja and are numerous throughout their range. They feed on or near the bottom and like shovelnose guitarfish, they give live birth.. These fish are easily identifiable by their wide “disk-like” heads and heavily spined tail sections. These are a smaller species, only reaching about 3 feet in length, and for the most part they remain close to the bottom and are slow moving.

Nicknames For The Thornback Skate

                Thornback, Soccer Trophy, Thornyback Winklepecker, Throwemback, Sand Shark

Young Angler With A Thornback Skate
Young angler with a thornback skate caught on the pier

How To Catch A Thornback Skate

                Thornbacks can be caught from both the pier and the surf, but the majority of these small rays will be caught incidentally on piers in sandy featureless areas. This is one species of fish that responds well to invertebrate baits such as shrimp, squid, or crab.  Sardines however are hard to beat when it comes to bottom bait and these rays will not turn down a finbait offering if they are in the mood.

                These slow, lazy critters are not fighters at all, “sleeping” on baits for prolonged periods of time without the angler even knowing they are hooked. 10 to 20lb line is plenty to catch these miniature bottom dwellers, but as mentioned before, many will be caught on baits intended for larger game.

Thornback Skate

                From the surf rigs like the Loop Rig, Pulley Rig, or even the basic Carolina/Fishfinder rig are all good options. On the pier most of these fish will be caught on slid baits intended for other species, no need to target them directly, if they are in the area they will find the bait. There is no need for wire with thornbacks, but in the event that another shark takes the bait be prepared for a cut off. These fish can and do eat very large baits intended for other species and don’t see to by shy when it comes to heavy or stiff terminal gear. It is nothing short of amazing the size of baits these fish will swallow down given enough time.

Where To Find Thornback Skate

                Thornbacks are common all along the Southern California coast, and anywhere with a rocky bottom or kelp line can hold these odd creatures South Orange County and SD County both hold enormous amounts of these fish, sometimes bordering on plague proportions.

Thornback Skate

When Is The Best Time To Catch A Thornback Scate

                Thornbacks bite all year, unfortunately. No luck escaping their bait stealing behavior there….

Thanks for reading! For more information and rigs for targeting these fish please check out our own website at!


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